Field Work Friday – Old Salem Village

Earlier this week we headed west to visit Old Salem Village, one of the first Moravian settlements in North Carolina.  This now-restored village was established in 1766 and now reflects the lifestyle lived there from its inception through the Civil War era.  The village is seven blocks long and three blocks wide, with lots of gardens, buildings to tour, and demonstrations to see.
Our first stop was in the gunsmith’s building.  This man was carving the stock of a new gun they were building.  This process was fascinating to watch!


Inside the tavern’s barn sat a man beside a pile of corn husks.  He explained that the early Moravians stuffed their pillows with this material and allowed the children to tear up husks for stuffing.  The barn itself was large and very sturdily built.  


Our next visit was to the cider mill and press, located directly outside the barn.  Here we learned how the two cylinders, made of wood, turned when the beam at the top was pulled, usually by a draft animal.  The cylinders then squished the apples, allowing the juice to run out of the bottom for preservation.  Next the apples were pressed in the cider press.


The Big Helper and My Little Man each took turns powering the cider press.  They seemed to think this would be a great job to have back then!


The tavern itself was the local inn for travelers.  George Washington stayed here and made a speech in 1791.  This room, located on the second floor, was the dining area for the travelers and prevented people who might wander in from taking food.  Since food and drink was the primary money maker for the inn’s owners, it was important that they take care in tracking their expenses here.


What’s an inn without beds?  The kids were eager to check out this rope bed and stuffed mattress.  They decided that they were most happy with their own modern beds!


Downstairs, in the main kitchen, a woman was baking breads with different grain combinations.  She explained how poorer people couldn’t afford wheat flour and sometimes baked their breads with other, rougher grain combinations.  She had samples of four different types to try.  The wheat-rye kind that I tried was really good!


The kitchen looked like it must have been a very busy place then.




 Many of the beds were very simple – almost cradle-like in structure – but this one was elegant and beautiful. My Big Helper particularly liked this one!



 The Fire Engine House was a neat building.  There were two small pumpers inside, and the kids were amazed to see a fire ‘truck’ without an engine.  Seeing the horse stalls in the next section of the building was enlightening, as well.



While there was not much action to see in the tavern’s kitchen, the one in this house was hopping.  The woman here was preparing a soup and a stew, as well as a few other dishes.


After her speech was over, she kindly showed us how her fireplace tools worked and shared more information about the peppers, carrots, cow beans, and leeks that she had cooked with that morning.  We’d never heard of cow beans before!


In the doctor’s summer kitchen the children were invited to make sachets. They scooped two spoonfuls of dried lavender flowers into each prepared bag and tied it closed.  They loved their sachets, and I loved they way they smelled for the rest of the day!


The next building over had costumed leaders showing how to play a Native American bean game.  Both kids liked this, and it was great for counting practice.  I think we’ll be playing this for school this semester!


I must admit that the Winkler Bakery was a highlight of our tour.  The bakery is run by men who still mix everything by hand and bake their bread in a brick oven heated by a wood fire.  My grandmother recommended the sugar cake, and we all agree – you can’t go wrong there.  It was fabulous!


I can’t imagine baking 94 loaves of bread in this thing, but it’s still done today.


Many of the plants in the Misch House garden were nearing the end of their season, but the gardener was hard at work and kind to explain what each plant was.  Taking care of this – and the two beds like it nearby – must have been a full-time job.


Inside, this woman had finished her cooking for the day and was cleaning butter.  She explained that butter was salted to preserve it, but this left it inedible, so the women would put it in a bowl with fresh water and squish a knife all through it.  After a while, they would pour off the water, and much of the salt would go with it.  After doing this three or four times, the butter could be eaten.


This new oven was outside the Miksch House.  I can’t imagine having to power this one!


This tailor was sewing a fancy cuff for a sleeve.  He explained how tailors of the time would sit on a table by a window to work so that they had enough light.  All sewing was done by hand and the clothing worn by everyone was quite formal compared with the clothes we wear today.



This woman is weaving a broom together.  After growing the plant that produced straw-like stuff used for the bottom of the broom, it was cut, dried, and then soaked to make the top part pliable for weaving.  Seven pieces were woven together to make the inner core for this broom, and then another 13 pieces were woven around this core to produce a big enough broom for use.  Without a handle, this broom might have been used to clean the hearth after cooking.  Adding a handle increased the expense and the time needed to finish the broom by about 50%.  Brooms with handles would have been used to sweep wooden floors indoors.

The demonstrators had extra brooms so that the kids could try them out.  Both of mine agreed that it’s easier to use a broom with a handle than this kind!

This nearby pump enthralled all the kids.  I bet it was somewhat less fun when this was your best – and only – source of water, especially in the cold winter months.


These women worked together to make pumpkin fritters.  They mixed pumpkin puree, cornmeal, eggs, milk, and salt until it was thick, then fried it in a spider (pan with three legs) over hot coals in butter.  The women sprinkled cinnamon and sugar over the top.
The finished fritters were a bit bland but not bad, though my kids chose not to eat any more after their initial taste.  Fritters of all kinds – apple, pumpkin, squash, carrot, etc. – would have been staples at this time, often eaten hot at the noon meal and then cold for supper.
I’m happy to have a bit more variety in our meals!
We had a really great time on this trip, both opening and closing the village.  Neither the kids nor I were ready to leave at the end of the day.  The actors were super polite and very kind, and they shared lots of neat information. 
We learned lots of things that will translate beautifully to background information about life without electricity over the next few months as we learn about the Pilgrims and early life in America.
If you have never been to Old Salem in Winston-Salem, be sure to plan a trip.  There are lots of special events coming up over the next few months, and it’s definitely worth your time!
What’s your most favorite field trip??
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